I remember a picnic in the fall of 1968 when I was discussing music with the late Danny Del Santo, who was a member of the Arm Brothers Band with our own Jerry Oland. I was saying how I really liked classic country music but that it lacked the drums and electric punch of Rock. Danny said, “Then you will love this new album by the Byrds called Sweetheart of the Rodeo. This album is often credited with being the start of “Country Rock,” as it introduced a brand new way to play a country shuffle (“You’re Still On My Mind”), waltzes (“Life in Prison,” “Blue Canadian Rockies,” and “Hickory Wind”), Louvin Brothers gospel (“I Like the Christian Life”), Dylan (“You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”), and “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “I am a Pilgrim” done up in bluegrass style in super “hi-fi” with incredible pedal steel intros and turnarounds. Who knew that a waltz could be played only with the cymbal hitting on the second beat instead of the bass drum on the first beat and the cymbal on beats two and three (“Blue Canadian Rockies”) or with syncopated double beats on the walking bass (“Still on My Mind”)? It totally hit me as this is the way music should sound and I have never yet heard anything to change my mind.
“You’re Still On My Mind”
I have bought many versions of this album: starting with the 33 ⅓ record (three copies in the family: one for me and one for each of our kids); the first CD of the original album; the reissued CD with a few bonus tracks; and, finally, the Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, Legacy Edition featuring all the out takes, including many original vocals by Gram Parsons, who was under contract to another record company and was not allowed to be performing on the original release by Columbia, in which several songs had Roger McGuin overdubbing the lead vocals.
It might be a bit much to say that this album changed my life, but it introduced me to Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman who went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers who, by the way, are not brothers, nor can they fly. Sweetheart of the Rodeo, together with all of Gram’s albums with the FBB, Grievous Angel and GP with Emmylou Harris, have been played more times through my 1964 Marantz 8B tube amplifier and my 1968 AR2ax speakers than all of the other 500 CDs in our collection put together. In fact I have never upgraded my stereo components, because when I first heard how Sweetheart of the Rodeo sounded through this equipment, it was burned into my mind as perfect and it would be a shame to change it.
There are so many subtle variations in the out take versions; I hear something new every time I listen to them. I highly recommend the two-disc Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, Legacy Edition, and you can throw away all the other albums in your collection. Also, if you could only pick one album to take with you to the proverbial desert island, this two disc set has a lot of songs to play over and over.
Oh, and the album cover is suitable for framing and makes a great tee shirt!
Rob Lipton adds:
“The above album reviewed by my father is not by a traditional bluegrass band nor is it traditional bluegrass music. This album did however, shift my father’s perspective of music forever. Moreover, it was very influential in my life as well, as after he was turned onto this album, he never seemed to turn the damn thing off and I was forced to listen to it over and over and over again. Luckily, it also became one of my favorite albums and so It was kind of a joy that he was unable to ever really develop any further musical interest beyond this album.”